This was ensured when Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina, two contestants who have remained totally locked in on their country roots throughout the entire season, emerged as the finalists and will square off for the title next week.
As a fan of both contemporary and traditional country music, it makes me happy to see that AI has evolved to the point where it’s not a total surprise to see the country contestant come out on top. The year Carrie Underwood took the title, I think that it came as a pretty big shock. And seriously, did anyone really think that Kellie Pickler had a chance? Prior to that, the only token country contestant that comes to mind was Josh Somethin-or-other, the Marine who was on the show during Desert Storm.
Country music is hugely popular, but it always seemed as if American Idol was not the proper stage. All that changed this season and specifically this week.
But, now that the dust has settled and the finalists are identified, the question that comes to my mind is how much influence Simon Cowell might have had for the last few weeks leading up to this point.
It was pretty well established that Simon is no fan of country music.
Would he have stood still for an all-country finale if he were still leading the judging?
I realize that the judges do not choose the winners and losers once the competition reaches this stage, but there is little doubt that the judges influence the fan voting. No judge used that influence more effectively than Simon.
I’ve complained earlier in the season about the neutral posture adopted by this year’s panel of judges and I have winced more than once at the caliber of performances that have gone uncriticized and have even been praised for the past couple of months, knowing full well that each week in seasons past, several would have been brutalized by Simon’s comments.
When the season began, I really lamented the fact that Simon was gone. It quickly became evident that the latest panel of judges was not going to provide much of the dramatic tension that had come to be expected at the end of each performance.
Let’s face it, we all waited until Simon had his say before we put the DVR into warp speed mode to get to the next performance. This year, most of what these judges had to offer falls into the category of “constructive criticism” … unfortunately that’s usually reality show terminology for DULL television.
But, now that it’s all almost over, I think of how little chance either of these contestants would have had in the past of reaching the finals individually, let alone as a pair. I find myself thankful that Simon moved on. It makes me happy that a couple of kids (ages 17 and 16) who are really, really talented have received the sort of nurturing and encouragement in front of a live audience on national television that you’d want for your own child.
Now the only question for me is who to pull for.
Scotty already possesses a great confidence and stage presence to go along with the voice quality and mannerisms that give him a professional aura way beyond his years. Scotty is terrific and he will have a long and prosperous career.
But, for me, Lauren appears to have cruised into the finals without ever having totally tapped into her real potential. She actually appears to have been lacking in confidence and to have held back when she had the opportunity to really soar.
To me, this will make the difference on the final night.
Will Scotty, who I believe has shown us pretty much everything he’s got, prevail because what he’s got is dad-gum impressive, or will Lauren finally cut completely loose and go places with her voice that she’s only hinted at so far?
If Scotty just keeps on keeping on with solid performances like his rollicking rendition of “Are You Going To Kiss Me or Not?” by Thompson Square, he stands a great chance of winning.
But, if Lauren duplicates or exceeds her amazing performance of “Do It Anyway” by Martina McBride, she should win.
I honestly cannot pick a winner at this point. I just don’t know.
But, what I do know is that nobody will lose this coming week on American Idol. Both of these finalists will sell millions of records … individually … AND (bank on it) they will sell millions as a duet as well. Listen to the link and see if you don’t agree.
How cool is that, y’all??
See … I told you so …